Side Mirrors (Issue 513)

In which we encourage development of multiple information points in our account relationships.

On my way to the airport last week, I came almost pant-dampening close to side-colliding with another car on the Interstate. He was moving at a much higher speed than I, weaving from lane to lane, and was changing lanes from left to right. I was accelerating to move around a slower moving car, changing lanes from right to left.

We almost met about half way in to the lane to my left. Using the rule, “faster moving cars overtaking you from the rear in your blind spot and stupidly  changing lanes without signaling have the right-of-way,” I sharply steered to my right, back into my original lane.

See?  There ARE rules of the road in Boston. Cultural norms. “Guidelines” not articulated in the Commonwealth’s drivers manual. For example, “turn signals are a sign of weakness,” and “he who looks, loses” and “in merging traffic or lane changes, the driver whose fender  is in front holds the right of way regardless of what the other rules say.”  (Except in the above mentioned “overtaking you from the rear in your blind spot” situation.)  Nobody said they were simple guidelines.

Somewhere along the line, I developed the technique of “full field of vision” in my rear view mirror and side mirrors to reduce blind spots. I set my mirrors so that I can see cars behind me in the rear view mirror. I set my driver side and passenger side mirrors so that, as cars move out of my rear view mirror to the right or left, my side mirrors pick them up. I can follow them in my side mirrors until I can see the front bumper and headlights of passing cars in my peripheral vision while I can see their rear fender or taillights in my side mirror.

Frequently scanning this “full field of vision” and using quick “shoulder peeks” before changing lanes has reduced the number of surprises significantly, last week’s trip to the airport being an exception.

Three points of vision in car mirrors sets a good example for “driving in our accounts” or managing client relationships, particularly larger company relationships. If we have only our “rear view mirror” and the field of vision in front of us, we can be blind sided by internal projects, other vendors, changes in budgets, and other “road conditions.”

“Side mirrors” – allies and fans positioned in different parts of the client organization or other vendors or service providers working with the same clients – can help us “see” in our blind spots.

They will tell us: “there’s a budget cut coming,” or “one of your competitors has been in,” or “there is a new initiative, just approved, where I think you could help.”

Without these side mirrors, we are dependent on our primary contacts who, for various political, circumstantial, or personal reasons including time pressures and long to-do lists, may withhold or delay information that we consider vitally important to serving our clients as well as protecting our positions in our accounts.

Driving in Boston (and in other major cities, also, I might add) with only one or two mirrors is dangerous. If we cannot position our rear view mirror and two  side mirrors for full field of vision, we are perilously vulnerable to side collisions (unless we are driving Hummers in which case the  Boston guideline would be, “Who cares what anybody else is doing?”).

Likewise, in our account relationships, at least three points of view help us stay safe: Our primary client, and at least two “side mirrors” in the account. The larger our relationship vehicle, and the larger our blind spots, the more we need our side mirrors to help us increase the breadth of our vision field, avoid blind spots, and gain early access to new opportunities and emerging ideas.

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